“Thinspo” content—images and articles “inspiring” readers to persist at disordered eating and dieting for the sake of being thin— has slowly been getting pushed off social media sites and shamed for its damaging effect on women’s body image and mental health. In its wake, a new brand of body-negative, obsession-spurring “inspiration”—called “fitspo”—has begun cropping up on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. But with the goals of achieving fitness and health, instead of thinness, it’s unclear when fitspo is a great way to stay motivated, or when it’s just thinspo in sheep’s clothing.
Thinspo content is disturbing in its own right, but fitspo content can be even more bothersome, because on first look, it actually seems inspiring and healthy. Do lots of lunges? Why, yes! Work hard at fitness and health? Replacing the goal of weight loss with goals of strength and health (a la “strong is the new skinny” and “healthy is the new skinny”) is a move in the right direction; in fact, it’s something we hope all of our readers do. The problem is when you start visualizing these goals…with yet more idealized (and often photoshopped) pictures of women in sports bras and short-shorts.
Even if they are exercising, holding weights, and eating big green salads, photos of “fit” women still fuel an unhealthy obsession with appearance, defeating the purpose of prioritizing health and strength, and perpetuating new myths about how women “should” look if they’re healthy and fit.
Of course, we’re happy to see images of women with muscles getting some representation in the media. But as Chichi Kix, the trainer and writer behind Fit Villains, wrote on Facebook earlier this week:
Don’t get me wrong: I love, LOVE seeing fit girls more and more often. I appreciate muscle. And it IS slightly more refreshing than images of thinner & thinner models. But considering that the majority of fitspo models still represent an unrealistic & unattainable ideal for most women, I don’t think it’s necessary to pair motivational messages with images of ripped, toned, albeit gorgeous ladies.
Seeing lean, toned women represented in the media isn’t the problem; idealizing a single body type is. We’ve made this argument on Blisstree before, and so have plenty of others. Idealizing Marilyn Monroe over Keira Knightley might seem like a great way to rebel against modern media’s ultra-thin norms, but placing any single body type on a pedestal inevitably sets unrealistic expectations for most women.
Here are a few of the deceiving images. On first glance, they may seem like great motivation for your health goals; here’s why we think it’s better to steer clear of their hidden body negativity: